Aberdeen City Council: schools

Aberdeen City Council makes technology work smarter for its younger citizens

Since 2004 the EPoS system developed by Open Solutions has been enabling Aberdeen City Council’s 9,500 students at 12 of its secondary schools to load c£1.2m a year onto their Accord cards to buy lunches each school day.

The EPoS system’s success and reliability has now resulted in the roll-out in 2016 to include 10,000 more pupils at the city’s 50 primary schools.

We look at the way Aberdeen City Council and its Accord card team have enabled the EPoS and smartcard technology to make life and lunch much easier and cheaper to administrate, and for nearly 20,000 students and their parents to buy a healthy lunch on each school day.

Wanted: robust, reliable and well supported

EPoS technology Back in 2004 Aberdeen City Council had already realised a smartcard’s potential when it was set up to work with an Electronic Point of Sale or EPoS system. Mindful of the need for robustness and reliability combined with a high standard of support, the EPoS system they chose was the one developed by MH Systems (one of the original companies that in 2017 formed Open Solutions) which was then called, of all things, CHIPS.

Since then the functionality and services enabled by the Accord Card have been increased and been developed across many aspects of the customer service provided by Aberdeen City Council.

Cashless catering: buying lunch at school made easier to administrate and pay for

In 2004 the city’s schools had provided an early opportunity to change the way school meals were administered, specifically the way they were paid for.

Instead of cash being given each day by parents to the students in the hope it was used to buy lunch, CHIPS meant that the cards could have money loaded onto them either at revaluation terminals at the schools, or online at the convenience of the parent’s home. This money was stored in the card’s electronic ‘purse’ so it could only be spent at the schools’ tills or vending machines in the dining area.

Moreover, students entitled to free school meals had the same Accord card and had their entitlement of £2.35 electronically loaded onto their cards each day. Looking exactly the same as the other Accord cards and used in the same way, meant that any stigma attached with free school meals was removed altogether.

The proof of the EPoS system’s reliability and robustness is borne out by the numbers: using it on every school day over 9,500 students at the city’s 12 secondary schools load up and spend over £1.2 million each year using their Accord cards with the CHIPS systems installed at the schools.

Now extended to the city’s 50 primary schools

The success of this project at secondary school level has now been extended in other ways. Having used a paper meal ticket system and following a successful pilot with three schools and 1,000 pupils, the city’s 50 primary schools are now getting an electronic database and Kidz cards (a junior version of the Accord Card), so that over the next year around 10,000 more pupils and their parents started benefitting from the same Accord/CHIPS cashless catering approach.

The benefits of using the Accord card driven EPoS system for cashless catering and vending The new cashless catering system will provide numerous benefits, including:

  • Removing paper meal tickets;
  • Reducing and streamlining administration process;
  • Removing the need for children to carry money to school by allowing parents and/or carers to top-up their child’s catering account on-line;
  • Enabling 70% of Free School Meal renewals to be done centrally;
  • Providing balance statements for parents by text and email;
  • Improving the debt management processes;
  • Reducing food waste.

Implementation of the Accord/EPoS/Kidz cards system at all 50 primary schools in Aberdeen then took place throughout 2016.

Summary: making technology work for Aberdeen’s school children and students

What these projects using smartcards and the Open Solutions’ EPoS system show and prove beyond any doubt is how technology really does improve matters in all sorts of ways for both public authorities and their citizens.

At a time when cuts are a way of life for public bodies, by using this technology Aberdeen City Council is able to both deliver and demonstrate best value for the public pound.

Its Accord Card team is a great example to other authorities in the UK when it comes to making technology work harder for the benefit of its younger citizens.